How to Write a Good Response to a Client/Customer Complaint

Jacob McMillen
Jacob McMillen

This popular article on how to write a good response to a client or customer complaint was updated in 2017 to provide instructional material to accompany the example from the original article.

Customer complaints are a daily reality for most businesses.

Your product or service might be top of the line. Your customer service may be best in class.

Doesn’t matter. You are still going to get complaints.

And that’s actually a good thing.

Today, we’re going to discuss why customer or client complaints can be a huge asset for you business and then show you how to harness those assets by crafting an ROI-boosting complaint response letter.

Why Customer Complaints Are Retention Gold

Customer retention is the top priority for any business wishing to achieve long-term success.

  • Repeat customers are worth up to 10 times the value of their initial purchase.
  • It’s seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer versus retaining an existing one.
  • It’s six times easier to sell to existing customers versus new customers.

So if our goal is retention, why are complaints so valuable? In short, customer complaints are a gold mine of valuable data that help us understand our customer base and improve retention.

For every customer who complains, 26 others remain silent. In other words, complaints give us insight into potentially pervasive problems that are bothering a large segment of our customer base. When customers complain, they are actively teaching you how to improve your product.

Additionally, when you successfully resolve a customer complaint, their odds of doing business with you again actually increase compared to if they had never made a complaint in the first place.

The key phrase here is “successfully resolve”, and that’s what we’ll be covering in the next section.

How to Respond to a Customer Complaint

When responding to a customer complaint, it’s important to do three specific things:

  1. Respond specifically to the issues brought up by the customer.
  2. Provide a specific apology that acknowledges any mistakes on your end.
  3. State exactly what you intend to do (or have already done) to make it right.
  4. Propose how you will improve the customer’s experience in the future.

You may have noticed a theme here, and that theme is specificity.

Customers don’t want a vague non-response that insults their intelligence. If you are going to respond to a complaint, it’s important to be very specific.

First, actually address each portion of the customer’s complaint. If the complaint came via a brief or mid-sized message, respond to each point. If it was a lengthy rant, try to address the main (or rational) points.

Next, take ownership of anything your business messed up or could have done better. If you made a legitimate error, say sorry. If your customer was confused about something most people understand, apologize that the experience wasn’t more intuitive.

Most importantly, make it right. Resolve the issue. Fix the problem. And then tell the customer EXACTLY what you did to ensure that they are happy in the end.

Finally, tell your customer about how you will their experience with your business better in the future. In some cases, this might just be a fix on your end. In other cases, it might require the customer to better understand your product. Either way, tactfully propose a solution that ensures the customer’s next experience with your business is a positive one.

To better understand these points, let’s look at a real-life example from Andrew Neitlich.

I got quite frustrated with my experience with Yahoo!’s Overture advertising service yesterday when loading up terms for a new site. I don’t know if you agree with me, but I find Google’s advertising interface much, much, much easier to work with than Yahoo!’s.

So I filled in a customer feedback form and sent in my complaint to Yahoo! Mostly I did this to vent, as I didn’t expect a response from a huge company like Yahoo!. Most companies don’t respond anymore to individual online complaints.

Yet Yahoo! responded with a terrific, personalized letter. (Had I known I’d get a response, I would have provided much more detailed feedback). I print the response here, because it is an excellent example of how to respond online to a complaint. I still like using Google much more, but at least I’m not going to cancel my Yahoo! account and stop advertising (which is where I was at yesterday). Notice how they cover in detail my issues, apologize where appropriate, explain their service, and give advice about things I can do better.

Here is their response, printed here as a template you might use for your sites or even clients:

Dear Andrew,

I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience these issues may have caused you. I have taken the liberty of resubmitting your listings that were incorrectly declined for Broken Site. According to my research, your listings that were declined for Blocked Site were also declined for Duplication of Results. This means that the keywords that you were attempting to add to your account, already existed in your account, and were seen as a duplicate of an existing listing. This means that the keywords you were hoping to add already exist in your account.

You are correct, after further review it was acknowledged that your site does not offer a product of service that Yahoo! does not to be affiliated with, and therefore the Blocked Site decline reason was an incorrect one. This decline reason did not affect the outcome of your submission.

The keywords that were declined for Insufficient Content, were declined correctly. You were attempting to bid on keywords like “business coach executive professional,” and “life and business coach,” but it is not clear if a user can actually find a business coach on your site, or if they will be referred to 3rd party for assistance with that request. If you were to offer more information on the “Locate an Executive Coach” section of your site, you could be approved for those keywords.

You may be interested to know that Yahoo! is developing a new advertiser interface that will offer business owners a more powerful advertising experience, and we plan to roll this interface out during the second half of this year.

I understand that there are several things in your account that you would like changed, and I would just like to let you know that we take advertiser feedback very seriously as we are always striving to improve our services. We welcome any additional feedback you may have.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any further assistance. Thank you for choosing Yahoo! Search Marketing!



Executive Services

Yahoo! Search Marketing


As Andrew mentioned, this is a superb example of a customer response letter from the Yahoo! Search Marketing team.

Yahoo! hit on each critical point in its response letter.

  1. Respond specifically to the issues brought up by the customer.
  2. Provide a specific apology that acknowledges any mistakes on your end
  3. State exactly what you intend to do (or have already done) to make it right
  4. Propose how you will improve the customer’s experience in the future

Use this same strategy to respond to your own customer complaints and improve customer retention.

FAQs on How to Write Response to Complaint Letter

How do you professionally respond to a complaint letter?

Responding professionally to a complaint letter involves several crucial steps. First, it’s essential to promptly acknowledge the receipt of the complaint to reassure the customer that their concerns are being taken seriously. Express empathy and understanding for the customer’s situation to convey genuine care and commitment to resolving the issue. Sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and, if applicable, take responsibility for any mistakes on your part.

Next, conduct a thorough investigation to understand the root cause of the problem. Provide a detailed response addressing each concern raised by the customer and offer specific information and solutions. Propose remedies that are fair and within your company’s policies, setting realistic expectations for the resolution timeline. Maintain a professional and respectful tone throughout the response, avoiding any confrontational language.

Lastly, follow up with the customer after the issue is resolved to ensure their satisfaction and request feedback on their experience. Use the complaint as an opportunity for improvement, analyzing the root causes and implementing changes to prevent similar issues in the future. Document the entire interaction for reference and tracking purposes, emphasizing professionalism, empathy, and effective problem-solving to transform a dissatisfied customer into a loyal one.

How do you start a response to a complaint?

Starting a response to a complaint requires a thoughtful and empathetic approach. Begin by addressing the customer personally, using their name if available, to show that you’re focused on their specific concern. Express gratitude for their feedback, emphasizing that you value their input and the opportunity to address their issue.

Next, acknowledge the customer’s complaint promptly and empathetically. Use understanding language to convey that you recognize the inconvenience or frustration they may have experienced. Following this, offer a sincere apology for any inconvenience or dissatisfaction they’ve encountered. Taking responsibility and apologizing in a genuine manner demonstrates your commitment to resolving the issue and shows that you respect their concerns.

Finally, reassure the customer of your dedication to addressing their concern and finding a suitable resolution. Make it clear that their satisfaction is a priority, and express your commitment to working toward a solution promptly. This combination of personalization, empathy, and assurance sets a positive tone for the rest of your response and fosters a sense of trust and confidence in your ability to resolve the issue professionally.

How to end a complaint letter response?

Concluding a complaint letter response is a crucial step in ensuring customer satisfaction and maintaining a positive relationship. Start by expressing gratitude for the customer’s feedback, reinforcing that you value their input and willingness to communicate their concerns.

Summarize the resolution or actions taken to address the customer’s complaint, providing a concise overview of how their issue is being resolved. This recap reassures the customer that their concerns have been heard and are being actively addressed.

Offer contact information, such as a direct email address or phone number, to encourage further communication if the customer has additional questions or concerns. Ending on a positive note, express your hope that the proposed solution meets their expectations and that they will continue to have a positive experience with your company in the future. A professional sign-off and your name, title, and company details complete the response, leaving a lasting impression of your commitment to customer satisfaction and problem resolution.

How to respond to a complaint when the customer Is wrong?

When responding to a complaint where the customer is wrong, it’s crucial to approach the situation with patience, empathy, and professionalism. Start by acknowledging the customer’s perspective and expressing understanding for their concerns, regardless of the accuracy of their complaint. Avoid becoming defensive or confrontational.

Next, gently address the specific issue or misunderstanding raised by the customer using clear and factual information. Provide explanations and evidence to clarify the situation without assigning blame. Offer a solution or compromise that aims to resolve the issue and ensure the customer’s satisfaction. This can involve clarifying policies, providing additional information, or making goodwill gestures, depending on the circumstances.

Maintain a respectful and professional tone throughout the response, focusing on finding common ground and encouraging open dialogue. Remember that the goal is to transform a potentially negative experience into a positive one, rebuild trust, and leave the customer with a favorable impression of your commitment to their satisfaction.

How to respond to a customer complaint about an employee?

Responding to a customer complaint about an employee necessitates a tactful and thorough approach. Start by acknowledging the complaint promptly and expressing empathy for the customer’s experience. A swift response reassures the customer that their concerns are being taken seriously. Offer a sincere apology for any inconvenience or dissatisfaction they may have encountered, demonstrating your commitment to resolving the issue professionally.

Conduct a comprehensive investigation to gather all relevant facts and details about the customer’s complaint. This step is crucial to ensure an objective and evidence-based response. Address each specific concern or allegation professionally, avoiding assumptions or judgments without proper evidence.

When outlining your response, emphasize your company’s commitment to delivering excellent service and meeting customer expectations, highlighting that the incident does not represent your typical service quality. Offer resolutions or compensation as appropriate, demonstrating your dedication to making amends. Finally, remember to follow up with the customer to ensure their satisfaction and gather feedback, and internally, provide feedback and potential training to the employee involved. Document the incident for future reference and continuous improvement in your customer service processes.